The Elders' Forum of National Religious Rabbis published an unequivocal message about dividing the Kotel last night (Sunday). The statement calls on the government to put together a new outline in coordination with the Chief Rabbinate.
"We support the Chief Rabbinate and call on the Prime Minister and all members of the government not to act in the Kotel plaza for the entire length around the Temple Mount, our holiest space, without the full cooperation of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel," the statement read.
The Forum includes, among others, Rabbi Haim Drukman, Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed, Rabbi Isser Klonski, and Rabbi Haim Shteiner.
This morning, Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) toured the southern section of the Kotel, along with several rabbis and the deputy mayor of Jerusalem, Dov Kalmanovich.
The tour's participants saw the the location of the Aron Hakodesh placed by the Conservative Movement and claimed that it is not acceptable. "This is not acceptable, and I don't want to use stronger words," said Minister Ariel. "It would be more correct and fitting for the Chief Rabbinate to be the one responsible for the site under the law."
Ariel emphasized that that intention is not to revoke the existence of the new plaza. "There is a bima here, there is a plaza. The physical aspects are already done. The disagreement is about whether the government recognizes the Reform Movement as part of the State of Israel. From here they are also trying to handle marriage, kashrut and other issues. We are opposed to this, it is a clear violation of the status quo."
"This agreement was done secretly, not openly, not with me, and not with the Chief Rabbinate. They brought us information an hour before Shabbat, so we didn't respond as we should have in the government meeting. It's always possible to adjust and we are working to do so. It's not over until it's over."
Towards the end of his comments, Ariel promised to act on the issue with complete cooperation with the haredi parties.